Camping adventures

What’s not to love about a great camping adventure?

I love camping adventures! When I was a kid they were the preferred holiday style on my mother’s side. While my own nuclear family had very little in the way of camping gear, we would join the canvas city set up at places like Green Patch for weekends and extended holidays. My happy memories of the camping adventures are strong, but the recall of actual details is low. (Perhaps my Chief Editor will add a comment below to correct my poor recollections?)

My Hundt family camping adventures were the real deal. By that I mean, they were not in fancy caravan parks with amenities but in camp grounds where you needed to look after your own wastes and shower from a canvas bag hung from a tree. Translation: The kids didn’t have a wash other than swimming in the ocean/lake and there was a wee “Wee tent” or a designated latrine area in the bushes. The tents belonged to my Grandma and Papa and other aunts and uncles. There was a communal cooking area and various sleeping tents. The cars were parked Wild-West-Wagon style to set up a perimeter.

Selecting a flat spot, large enough to accommodate the tents, was left up to the camp master, Papa. As a Scout Leader, he knew his stuff. Once the survey was complete, the heavy bundles of neatly folded white and green canvas were hauled out from cars and taken to their assigned spots. Everyone had a part to play in getting them set up. The unfurling was left to the older kids and adults and the delivery of the various wooden tent poles, guy ropes, tent pegs assigned to children of appropriate size. (The photos above are scans of old slides)

Come back at meal time!

The troupe of seven cousins (ranging from 5 – 15) were set free during the day and reported back to camp for lunch and dinner. The rest of the time we played in sandhills, in the water and on the shoreline looking for treasure. I’d like to think there was an adult somewhere watching from a distance but there probably wasn’t! Cousin Susan, at 15 was likely charged with this responsibility. We would get outrageously sunburned. We would be covered in insect bites. We ate a LOT of cheese and spaghetti jaffles cooked over a campfire. But we were safe and happy. 

Lake Tabourie

As a teenager, my Aunty Colleen and Uncle Graeme continued the camping adventures but had moved to a more or less permanent camp in Lake Tabourie Caravan and Campground. They’d set up with a group of friends at the beginning of the school holidays and stay put for the duration. People would come and go. My brother and I would go down for a few weeks in the long summer break. 

Our activities here were a little more structured although still more or less unsupervised. We had the option of joining in on the Christian Holiday Groups that occupied these places in the ‘70s. They would run activities like craft groups, liberally sprinkled with Scripture of course. There was a shuttle bus that would go into the nearby town of Burrill Lake in the evenings and here we would watch movies in the open-air theatre, sitting in chairs made from a strip of canvas strung on two metal poles. I remember watching all the (original) Planet of the Apes series here. 

Pre-Schoolies – Schoolies

When I graduated high school, the Ex and I went on a camping adventure to Ballina, with two of our school buddies. (These days this post-school graduation trip is called Schoolies). We told our parents that Trish and I would be sharing one tent and Mark and the Ex would be in the other.  (Yeah right!)   It rained a lot and we spent a lot of time in pubs playing cards. But still, I recall it as a happy time.

As we got older and richer, The Ex morphed into a 5-star hotel man. Ready access to fine food and wine was the priority. Our 1980’s style Wolf-of-Wall Street jobs meant we didn’t go on many holidays anyway. Most of our downtime was spent renovating houses or with my parents who had moved to Bellingen. Sitting on their verandah looking out over cow paddocks was as close as we came to the great outdoors.

The last extended tent camping adventure I had was 14 years ago when I was teaching my daughter how to drive. To get her logbook hours up,  we went on a road trip through western NSW and alternated between camping and rural pubs. 

Glamping

In 2013, I flew to Adelaide and hired a camper van to do a circuit through North-West Victoria, Broken Hill and back to Adelaide. Now, THIS became my favourite holiday – glamping! Accommodation, transport and dining all wrapped up in the one package! The ability to pull over and make a cup of tea wherever you felt like was so appealing! Pulling into the caravan park with nothing to do beyond plugging in the electricity! Bliss! 

Bliss!

Such simple healthy pleasures! Camping has been shown to be really good for your physical and mental health. You can read those benefits here in a post by Sports Fitness Advisor, it’s a US site but just as relevant to us here in Aus. Waking up with the dawn light and enjoying the dark night resets your body clock among other things. I am not sure if these benefits extend to glamping! I have not yet tried hardcore camping which requires you to carry EVERYTHING in a backpack to a remote wilderness, but I will soon!

My own (new) tent!

Why this trip down memory lane? I have bought a tent for my upcoming Great Southern Road Trip. My plan is to camp most of the time interspersed with forays into cabins and hotels. My return to camping  is motivated by my memories and as a way of saving some money (see my Year of Zero series). I investigated a camper van but since I’m switching States and doing a walking tour and going to Flinders Island, it would not be economical to have it sitting parked for 12 days. On top of that, it is almost impossible to hire one! With Australians confined to the continent due to ongoing concerns for COVID overseas, EVERYONE is road-tripping!

The tent is EASY to erect. The main support poles are attached and it goes up a bit like an umbrella. It’s big enough to stand in and while nominally a four person tent it will be plenty big enough for me and my gear. I still have to get a few things like a camp bed.

I’ll be doing a practice weekend camp with my grandson in a few weeks in a place not too far from home, to check I have all the gear I need. I have already set it up in my garage to test the “instant-up” claim and yes it is easy, but do you think I can fold it up neatly and get it back into that little bag it came in?? Not easy! 🙂

I can’t wait!

Furious Fiction 18 – December 2020

Australian Writers’ Centre Furious Fiction

December Furious Fiction? Already? Or from another point of view: “is it only December? When will this year be over? The year has simultaneously sped past and dragged on. Here is another installment in Frankie’s story.

I had a story arc roughed out but as I was writing this story my “pantser” mind took over and created a plot twist. Pantser being a term used by writers to describe those who write the story “by the seat of their pants” compared to plotters, who plot things out carefully.

I wanted to finish it this month so the end of Frankie’s journey coincided with the end of the year.

Sigh…

This Month’s Prompts

This month the prompts for Furious Fiction were.

  1. The first sentence could only be three words
  2. You need to include the words rose, palm and match (or variants of like matched)
  3. You need to include a gift of some kind.

The Furious Fiction short story competition is serious fun and I recommend it to anyone who likes creative writing. Only 500 words with a prize of $A500. I’ve given up on writing for the prize, now I am just trying to write my story. I’m getting closer to the end!

This story runs on directly from last month so you might want to read that first.

The Stats

This month I submitted the story at 9:00 PM on Sunday. I spent about an hour on Friday afternoon, then 2 hours on Saturday morning and a rough polish on Sunday before submitting as I was out all weekend. 491 words

Thomas Ball takes a leak

“Who are they?”

“Dorchester and Williams,” Frankie said casually as he put down his beer. 

O’Mallory nearly fell off his chair. “DORCHESTER and WILLIAMS? His voice rising in a whispering shout.

“Yes-sir-ree! Prime Minister Dorchester here in the rose lamé number and his Deputy Williams in the nice peacock blue chiffon,” Frankie said pointing to the photo.

“Shhh…!” O’Mallory looked around the bar while simultaneously trying to melt into the plastic palm tree propped against the wall.

“Classic ‘80s D&G. Really, it was a  bit over the top for the occasion! It took me a bloody long time source those outfits and they wasted them on some small-time Party Conference. Bloody poseurs those two! No fucking class! ” 

“Do you think they’ll still have them? Tucked away in their wardrobes?”

“Maybe, it’s a bit risky and there *was* the *Second Purge Amnesty*. It would have been safer to toss them then onto the big public fires and make a song and dance of their righteousness. It doesn’t matter, there are plenty more photos where that one came from. Either way, those bastards are gonna pay for those years I’ve lost, ” said Frankie stabbing the image with his finger, “Fucking hypocrites!”  

O’Mallory’s face contorted with guilt as his part in Frankie’s incarceration flickered through his mind. Frankie took another deep, calm sip to drain the glass and as if reading O’Mallory’s mind he said, 

“You were only doing your job, Guv’ner. But not these bastards! They came up with the whole crummy scheme!”

“That’s very gracious of you Frankie, I am sure not everyone I’ve sentenced would match your generosity. How much do we owe you for the evidence?” 

“Nada! Think of it as a gift. Just do what you need to do to get these pompous gits out of the House.”

O’Mallory looked at his watch and put the photo back in his pocket. “I have to go, I’m meeting with the others. Listen to Question Time tomorrow. It should get interesting. 

The men shook hands, “ Thanks Frankie, the Nation will thank you tomorrow.” 

That whole exchange, the entire process of getting the evidence to topple a corrupt government had taken less than 10 minutes.  It was then that O’Mallory realised that Tom Ball the journalist, and Frankie’s minder, hadn’t come back from the toilet.  He’d been gone the whole transaction. Odd? 

As he stepped from the un-palatial Mumbai Sapphire to the grubby street, the bright white lights of a garden of video cameras dazzled O’Mallory’s eyes,

“Justice O’Mallory,” the reporter barked as he thrust the microphone forward, “is it true that startling new photos *supposedly* compromising the position of our National Leader are in fact, photoshopped deep fakes?” 

O’Mallory pushed through the pack of reporters. “No comment,” he shouted.  

O’Mallory’s mind whirled. How did they even know about the photos? Was Ball a leak rather than just taking a leak?  Had he played them for suckers?


Final episode next month! (maybe!)

Longer tales from the Road – Menindee

This post is the first of what I hope will be a continuing series – Longer Tales from the Road. Episode 1 is about Menindee.

For those who have been reading my posts for a while, you’ll know I am a strong starter but often trail off so who knows how long it will last! Examples in point are my series on Wollongong, and then Eco hacks. Come to think about it I never wrote the last two posts about coffee either

With my Great Southern Road Trip on the horizon, I thought it was a good time to start this occasional series. These stories will not be about the travel per se, but longer tales from the road of the places I have visited and the interactions I have had while road tripping around this big island.

I usually travel solo but on this road trip to Broken Hill in June 2020, I had a travelling companion, Michele, my work buddy. 

Enough of the chit chat let’s get started.

Dirt road and blue sky
On the road to Menindee

Episode 1 – A day trip to Menindee

Today’s travel itinerary includes a day trip across to Menindee from Broken Hill. It’s a little over an hours drive on a sealed road. 

The township springs up out of the dirt necessitating a rapid deceleration from 110 kph to 50.  The town is dusty, brown and straggly. The streets as dotted with small houses with tin rooves, and fibro sheeting. There are some with rebellious green gardens while others stopped fighting nature long ago, and have let the heat win. The brown yards are adorned with an interesting array of various statues, rocks or junk.

COVID Testing?

As we slow down we see a couple of people sitting on plastic storage boxes at a table by the side of the road. They looked bored, one is on the phone,  the other tossing a water bottle in the air.  There is a blue sign declaring FREE COVID TESTING. These bored people are with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and they’re providing a vital service to remote communities and travellers.

Once we parked the car, Michele and I crossed the road to offer to buy them a coffee, after a warm thank you, they declined. We were not the first to offer and they had had their fill of caffeine for the day. Anita and Helen are Flight Nurses with the RFDS and for the past 4 months, their normal duties have been replaced with a mobile COVID testing service. Each day they move from tiny town to tiny town testing townsfolk and people driving through. They average 4 – 6 tests a day with the results returned by SMS to the client in 24 – 48 hours. Results for Aboriginal people are rushed through because of their higher vulnerability. 

I have to admit I felt a bit choked up about this and had a real “I love Australia” feeling flood through me.  Free rapid testing, 500 km away from the nearest big city with less than a day’s turnaround?!  Now that’s a wonderful thing! Thank goodness for Medicare!

(US citizens take note: Over a certain income level all Australian citizens pay a 1.5% levy to pay for free or subsidised health care for ALL.)

Anita and Helen

Anita is based in Broken Hill, but Helen, a Queenslander, had been stuck in NSW for 4 months. The original six-week secondment had been extended because the Queensland border was closed. She’d been separated from her family for all that time but was grateful she had her two dogs with her.

We stood and chatted about their experience and commitment to public health. Helen was hoping to source a Gate Code to get through the Dog Fence from someone, somehow so she could get back home.

Thank you, Anita and Helen!

Now here’s a bit of Australiana I knew nothing about? A dog fence? I’ve heard of the rabbit-proof fence but never the dog fence.   As it turns out in this northwestern corner, where the New South Wales, South Australian and Queensland borders merge there is a dog fence. The aim is to keep dingoes north and away from the sheep and cattle. 

Apparently, it is more successful in keeping the people and kangaroos in. The fence is usually just shut with a series of gates, but because of COVID and border closures, the gates are now locked tight with digital padlocks and you need a code to open them. If Helen did get a code she would have to contend with flooded roads because while 2020 brought the virus it has also brought welcome heavy rain. 

After 15 minutes or so we crossed the road and got some lunch. 

Why would you go to Menindee?

Menindee has a sign posted population of 750.   There is certainly enough to keep you busy for a day or two and now is the time to do it! As international travel becomes a fading memory, we can at least enjoy a home grown road trip!

You’ll find a pub,  a caravan park,  a school and a corner store/cafe.   The Redsands Takeaway sells food, limited groceries and odds and ends including fishing gear. I chatted with the owner while she made my cup of tea and sandwich. She told me apart from the meals for tourists and truckies, she also prepares fifty lunches and dinners each week for the local (sic) Meals on Wheels in Ivanhoe, a mere 200 km east. They also double up as the school’s tuck shop (canteen) and stick rigidly to the healthy schools’ canteen policy.  This allows the 90 children and 18 staff a bit of variety.  By the way, they also do a pretty good cheese and tomato toastie! 

The Redsands Cafe

Menindee Lakes

A little way out of town you’ll find the Menindee Lakes a series of freshwater lakes that supply Broken Hill with drinking water. They are also popular recreational areas where the folks around this way come to water ski, fish and swim. The lakes started as natural depressions along the Darling River which filled only during floods. In the period from 1949 to 1968 the lakes where dammed and weirs and regulators installed to control the flow. 

The lakes are also very popular with photographers. The flooding of the lakes has left lots of dead trees in the water and there are often spectacular sunsets. I took this image on my first visit to Menindee back in  2013.

Kinchega National Park

Apart from the Menindee Lakes, you’ll also be able to visit Kinchega National Park. You’ll need a 4WD vehicle to drive on the sand and gravel roads.  Even though the road was in good condition there are a few spots where a regular car would bottom-out and get stuck.

The Park has the remains of an old homestead and a wool shed. You’ll find some nice picnic spots along the slow-flowing muddy Darling. It’s amazing to think that people settled here in the mid-1800s. Their lifestyle must have been tough compared to our pampered existence now.

Menindee Grapes

There are significant table grape plantings in the area,  but this industry is in doubt because of a lack of water security. I won’t go down that rabbit hole in this post, but there is a great deal of controversy about water rights along the Darling River. The river system has a total length of over 3,000 km with its origins in Queensland. It feeds into the Murray before flowing through Victoria and then onto South Australia. After every state takes their bit there is not much left draining out to the sea. Original settlers used steamboats to move cargo from Queensland down to South Australia, but the variable and unreliable water supply lead to many disasters. The variable and unreliable natural flows have been exacerbated by over-allocated water licenses. 

Menindee Caravan Park

As I write this another 4 months down the track, with COVID almost done, in Australia at least, I wonder how Helen went. Did she get a code? Did Helen and her dogs get home to their family? As it turned out we met Anita again two days later when she was in Wilcania.

This time she did accept our offer of a coffee.

A little off road photography dress-ups.